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Posted on 06.29.2011

Internal Communications When They Matter Most

  Companies often contact our firm looking for help managing the disclosure of an external strategic issue or crisis event.   These types of issues often have significant legal aspects to them, but can range from competitive issues to regulatory matters to qui tam actions or civil lawsuits. As part of a situational analysis, we work with the client to understand and prioritize the company’s stakeholders and audiences. With slight variations, we most often hear a list that goes something like this:
  • Investors or board members, if appropriate
  • Customers
  • Potential customers
  • Referrers
  • Reporters
  • Everyone else.
When we say, “what about employees?” the most common response is, “Oh, yeah, employees, too.” For many employees, especially in small business and non-profits, work teams and colleagues are “like family.” Just like the deference shown when police hold the release of a crime victim’s name until family has been notified, internal audiences should be, if possible, at the top of the list of stakeholders to learn about a crisis event or strategic issue. The benefit of notifying employees first is multifold:
  1. It can help contain destructive buzz and speculation, which can drain productivity and morale, and, over time, can negatively impact recruiting.
  2. It provides an opportunity to remind employees of their role as good will ambassadors and feedback providers.
  3. Employee forums and town halls give executives and company leadership a “dry run” on delivering strategic messages to other audiences.
  4. It offers the opportunity to reinforce company policies about how to address customer concerns and media inquiries.
  5. In most instances, it’s just the right thing to do.
Have an internal communications nightmare or best practice?  Leave a comment and let us know about it.

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